Minority Democrats To Hold Own Hearings

As the special session grinds on, Democrats in the minority plan to call their own hearings outside of the standard committee process.

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With the 30-day special session at the halfway mark, seven meetings have been held on the budget, one on Medicaid expansion, and zero on a sexual abuse prevention bill known as Erin’s Law. Democrats will hold a hearing on all three of these special-session agenda items at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office on Thursday evening.

As part of the Legislature’s majority party, Republican committee chairs have the authority to schedule official hearings. At a press availability on Monday, members of the minority explained they were dissatisfied with the progress of the special session, and decided to hold meetings of their own. They say they will take public comment, which has not occurred in the meetings that have been held.

The Legislature has been in a state of gridlock since the final days of the regular session, when lawmakers failed to reach a deal on a budget. Because of a multi-billion-dollar deficit, some Democratic support is needed to tap the state’s hard-to-access rainy day fund, but the minority has said it will not support a budget that does not include Medicaid expansion or more funds for education.

If a deal to fund state government cannot be reached, a shutdown is possible as early as July, according to the Legislature’s financial analyst.